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AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ dual-core CPU

Impressive. Most impressive

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To put that score of 281 for the X2 4800+ into context, the Armari that we used for our dual-core Opteron feature had a pair of Opteron 875s running at 2.2GHz and it scored 254 marks. The X2 4800+ has a 200MHz core-speed advantage, uses faster memory than the Opteron system and has a very fast hard disk array but even so it was a real surprise to see how well it performed in SYSmark.

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ SysMark

The reason that X2 4800+ shows a 50 per cent improvement in the ICC part of SYSmark over the FX-53 is due to the multi-threaded nature of the applications, and the reason that it shows no benefit in gaming is that most games don't yet use multiple threads.

You might feel that the X2 4800+ looks very pretty on paper, but if you have no yearn for the digital lifestyle it may look like an expensive luxury. We wondered about that so we ran the same real world usability test that we performed on the Pentium Extreme Edition and Armari dual 875. We loaded up Bit Defender anti-virus and iTunes, and set the two applications running. While Bit Defender ran a full system virus scan we started to encode three albums of MP3 files to AAC format with iTunes, and then we started to play Doom 3.

With the FX-53 processor in our test system Bit Defender pegged the CPU at 100 per usage, and after we started iTunes encoding, Doom 3 simply refused to open, let alone play.

It was a completely different story with the X2 4800+ which could split the workload between the two cores, so running iTunes barely made an impression. With both iTunes and Bit Defender running we were able to play Doom 3 without any dropped frames, and although the processor was working very hard it was completely invisible to us.

So you see, there is a benefit to gamers from dual-core right now: you can run other applications while you're gaming without shedding game performance. Your favourite game won't get any faster until it's coded to run as more than one thread, but it won't slow down significantly if you want to run stuff in the background.

NV Monitor shows that the X2 4800+ was running at a mere 37&176;C and the Thermaltake heatsink was cool to the touch.__

Verdict

There's no doubt that the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is very impressive indeed. Combined with the nForce4 SLi chipset it has performance that is truly staggering, and the only possible source of disappointment is the price. That and perhaps the fact that we don't expect speed increases to come along thick and fast. We'd guess that 2.6GHz at the start of 2006 and 2.8GHz at the end of 2006 with a 3GHz version in 2007 is close to the mark. We're about to be hit by a wave of new technologies as 64-bit computing and virtualisation come to the desktop, and we can't wait to see what benefits they bring, but right now Athlon 64 X2 is at the top of our tech shopping list.

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AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+
 
Price $537-1001
 
More info The AMD multi-core site

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